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Josh Hamilton Signs With Mariners(' Direct Rival)

Jeff Gross

That I wrote about this at FanGraphs first means you've presumably already heard the Josh Hamilton news. More than that; not only have you heard the news, but you've considered the news, and thought about the various implications of it. You've had the idea of Josh Hamilton as a member of the Angels in your head for hours, now. Because that's what he is, for five years and $125 million, assuming he passes a physical, which means assuming doctors don't find something weird in his shoulder or his knee or his butt. (I assume they check the butt.) (Physicals can be humiliating!)

Remember, just yesterday it looked like Hamilton was probably going to re-sign with the Rangers. I woke up this morning not planning on writing about Josh Hamilton because nothing seemed to be on the verge. Then the Angels entered the mix out of god-damned nowhere and the whole thing was completed within a matter of a few hours. This is what the Angels did with Albert Pujols, and this is what the Angels did again with Josh Hamilton. Jerry Dipoto just yesterday said he didn't see anything major being imminent. Jerry Dipoto is a damned liar. Who could trust a general manager like Jerry Dipoto, who is establishing a track record of deceit?

Not that this has had a lot to do with Dipoto, necessarily. This is probably more about Arte Moreno and his desire to win and steal the spotlight back from the Dodgers, who Moreno thinks are a cross-town rival. We knew the Angels were flush with money after we found out about their TV deal a year ago. They seemed to be exhibiting some restraint this winter, missing out on alleged top-priority Zack Greinke, but Hamilton just got the Greinke money. The Angels, like the Dodgers, have limits. The Angels, like the Dodgers, apparently haven't reached them. The Angels are a blossoming juggernaut, that incidentally hasn't made the playoffs for a few years.

Hamilton indicated all along that he would give the Rangers a chance to match any offer he got. Reports say he didn't actually give the Rangers that chance today. I'm going to guess this is because the Angels guaranteed five years, and the Rangers probably made it clear they wouldn't go beyond four. I don't think Hamilton was just being a dick about things. That extra year would've sealed the deal, and it's not like Hamilton is leaving any money on the table, either.

These are the implications for the Seattle Mariners, who happen to be our primary concern:

  • Josh Hamilton is not signing with the Seattle Mariners
  • Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn might now be less likely to sign with the Seattle Mariners

The first implication is the case because Josh Hamilton just signed with a different baseball team. Pay attention! The second implication might be the case because Hamilton didn't re-sign with the Rangers, leaving the Rangers still in search of some roster upgrades. If they had room for Hamilton, and/or Upton, they have room for a talented and expensive outfielder, which Swisher is and Bourn also is. I don't know if the Rangers will get involved there, but Hamilton landing with a mystery team means Swisher and Bourn haven't yet fallen into the Mariners' lap. It's possible Swisher and Bourn just don't want to play here. They could be convinced by enough money, but that might be too much money. I haven't the foggiest, myself.

Many will be displeased about Hamilton going to a rival, and not going to the Mariners. We can't say what it would've taken to get Hamilton to sign here. Probably at least five guaranteed years, at a similar salary. Maybe, a week or two ago, the Mariners would've been able to sign Hamilton to this contract. Maybe it would've taken more. If the Mariners tried to get in the mix today, it would've taken a bigger commitment, because the Mariners are less desirable than the Angels are, on account of the Angels are good and the Mariners are not yet. You sign with the Angels and you sign with a team you figure is going to win. You sign with the Mariners and you sign with a team you hope is going to win eventually. Success is important and success just isn't a selling point the Mariners have to offer right now. They have a young roster and adjusted fences.

I wouldn't have loved for the Mariners to give Hamilton this kind of contract, myself. He has all the red flags we've discussed. His career OPS is 95 points worse outside of Texas. I cannot repeat enough how troubled I am by Hamilton's reduced contact rate in 2012 -- he made more contact than Carlos Peguero, but less contact than Miguel Olivo, and Miguel Olivo swings and misses like he's doing it for charity. Nobody has any idea how Hamilton is going to perform as he ages, but those in favor of signing Hamilton need to understand the reality of the downsides. They need to get beyond the desire for the Mariners to make a splash, and they need to understand that splashes can be good things or bad things. It was awesome when the Mariners landed Cliff Lee. It might not have been awesome for the Mariners to end up with Josh Hamilton. A "splash" refers to a short-term emotional lift. We're all in this because we want to see the Mariners succeed. Success depends not on making a series of splashes, and more on making a series of good decisions that work out favorably. The Mariners decided not to give Hamilton as much as he wanted. It would've been fun, at least for a little while, to have Hamilton in the uniform, but that might very well have been a great decision on the Mariners' part. Don't pretend like Josh Hamilton isn't one of the riskiest premier free agents the market's ever seen.

Sure, eventually, the Mariners might need to put themselves out there. I am not comfortable calling Jack Zduriencik a failure for not signing Josh Hamilton. Josh Hamilton's own previous team didn't want to go beyond four years, and they're a hell of a lot closer to being a champion than the Mariners are. Did the Rangers fuck this up? Did every other team in baseball fuck this up? As far as I know, only the Angels went to five years. Only the Angels gave Hamilton enough of a guarantee that he didn't even check with the Rangers before signing.

A lot of Mariners fans are starting to lose it, I know. They've grown beyond frustrated, and Michael Bourn might only make things worse, given the Chone Figgins parallels. Even though, over the next five years, Michael Bourn might easily outperform Josh Hamilton on the field. If you're one of those Mariners fans, step back and understand your perspective. You are to some degree emotionally upset. You would be temporarily sated by a splash kind of move, but then what? What if the Mariners weren't good enough? What if the splash didn't work out? You can look at the little picture all you want, and that's fine, but it's the team that has no choice but to remain focused on the bigger picture. They shouldn't be criticized for that. The Mariners have sucked, but I'm not going to rip them to pieces for not giving Josh Hamilton at least $125 million over the next five years. I don't think there's enough justification.

It's funny, in a way -- so many people treat the offseason like the season. Even though the Mariners aren't playing, people want the Mariners to win. That's fine, and I like an active offseason as much as the next guy, but the Marlins had an active offseason and now they're a pile of crap. Things always have to be done responsibly -- the Mariners don't yet have a mega-TV contract to fall back on -- and though I'm open to the idea that the Mariners might be too cautious, I'm guessing it's better for them to be too cautious than too over-aggressive. I'm not going to like this offseason if the Mariners emerge from it with Jason Bay as the addition, but moves can't be responsibly forced. I'd be happy to have Swisher and/or Bourn, yet I don't know what it would take for Swisher and/or Bourn to be happy to be Mariners.

I get it. I'm also frustrated. I want additions. Good additions! Good long-term additions. Jack Zduriencik is trying to make some. Has been for a while. The offseason isn't over. Relax, and understand that benefits come with costs. You can say that it's time for the Mariners to take a huge risk, but I don't know if that's true. It might actually be the opposite of true. Your emotions are getting in the way of your perspective.

On the other hand, it's only fuckin sports. Do something crazy! It's not like it matters!